Table of Contents
I shouldn't be here today.
Well, I shouldn’t be here today. Lifting weights was my way of holding myself accountable. The more time I spent in the gym the less time I had to fall back into temptation of past ways – substance abuse, self-hate, hopelessness.
I've shared glimpses of my story before. And although I've never shared every pain staking detail, what I wrote in the book got me closer than I thought I'd ever be comfortable sharing.
But when I released the book in February, I still couldn't get myself to share publicly.
Now, please hear me out on this part - I do not now, nor have I ever felt obligated to share. I don't want attention and I most definitely don't want sympathy.
What I want is for my past - the past that I once thought was worthless - to create meaning.
And part of that meaning, in my opinion, comes from sharing.
Tonight I decided that I'm going to take my own advice and face my fear.
Life is too short to hold back any longer...
I had completely lost control.
I had completely lost control.
Looking back, everything seemed so dark. Not the relaxing type of darkness that tucks you into bed at night, but the kind of darkness that keeps you awake at night. The kind of darkness that lingers. I was living in a world that chased temporary highs and size 00 skinny jeans – and I had completely lost control.
The scariest part was that I wasn’t unaware of it. I wasn’t naïve to the fact that the path I was going down was ever winding and spiraling into the darkest of caves. Rather, I allowed myself to believe that I was living the life I deserved – the life I was sentenced to. Because for someone with a past and mistakes like mine – redemption wasn’t an option. I had completely given up hope. And when you give up hope, it’s hard to find joy in waking up each morning, it’s hard to fake smiles, and it’s hard to see any light when everything around you is so dark…
So I chased those size 00 skinny jeans and late nights and temporary highs – literally – until I had become so addicted to the momentary “happiness” that it was all I had to live for.
Not only was I hopeless, but I told myself that I was unlovable and undeserving of anything in life worth having. So I settled and I did anything and everything that I thought would give me that momentary “happiness” and that temporary high. I settled for relationships that hurt me, I settled for a lifestyle that ruined me, and I settled for health that was the furthest thing from.
As time went on I became so focused on that feeling that everything else started falling down around me… my grades, my finances, my friendships, my weight…
“Please make sure you’re taking care of yourself” My mom said to me one day when I was visiting. She wasn’t fooled by my fake smiles or my embellished stories. She wasn’t impressed with size 00 skinny jeans, the sunken in bags under my eyes or the hair that was falling out of my head…
"One day, I woke up..."
One day I woke up – literally – in my car in the parking lot of a college apartment complex asking myself “How did I get here” and in that moment, that question held more weight and had more meaning than I could ever fathom. How did I get here? Not just in my car or in this apartment complex, but how did I get here. How did I get to a point in my life where I stopped caring or myself or for my future? How did I get here… to this place… where I decided that I wasn’t worth fighting for… and I cried the entire way home.
When I got home, I stood in my bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror – at what I had become. And in that moment I realized that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. All of the hopes and ambitions and dreams and goals that I had envisioned for myself as little girl… is this really what life had come to? To waking up in my car, to staring myself down in the mirror and asking myself “how”… with the hope that I was experiencing nothing more than a bad dream… but the cold reality was… that this was the life I had chosen…
Was this the life I truly wanted to live? Was this the kind of life I could be proud of? That my family or my future children could be proud of? Was this the kind of life that I could I could hold with pride on my dying days… The kind of life that His life died for? And for the first time in a very long time… I prayed. And suddenly, the tears that were flooding down my face that came from shame and regret turned into tears of overwhelming gratitude…
I kept saying “Thank You” over and over again.
“Thank You for always giving me a second chance.”
“Thank You for always fighting for me.”
“Thank You for saving me the night I wanted to give up on it all.”
“Thank You for never giving up on me – even when I gave up on myself.”
And on that morning, the darkness that had once ruled my life began to get a little brighter – but that didn’t mean things became easier. I had to become completely broken and humbled and vulnerable in order to even start trying to put the pieces back together and in order to remember that there is more to life than those temporary highs, more to life than the approval of others and more to life than size 00 skinny jeans.
So I left and distanced myself from everything I had once known and everything I had once thought I wanted. And with that leap of faith I was overwhelmingly overcome with fear. The fear of what others would think. The fear of uncertainty, of disapproval and of disappointment. But most of all, the fear of failing. You see, even though I realized there was more, even though I took a step forward, I had a long journey ahead of me.
Change didn’t happen overnight. It was a long and grueling process. But with every new day and every new decision, my mindset and the way I viewed things slowly started to change. Less victim mentality. Less saying “poor me”. Less counting myself out because I was just “average” or because I was too far gone or because I simply wasn’t worth fighting for… Less time spent being held hostage by my past mistakes, by shame and by regret. I had to commit to no longer accepting the excuse of “Well if this didn’t happen” or “If they didn’t do that” or “If I was just a little more”… Less excuses and less time spent allowing my past to go on in vain.
Because the only thing worse than living a life filled with regret is failing to make the choice to turn it around, failing to learn, and failing to inspire others with how hard you are willing to fight. This life is a gift and the mistakes and regrets that I’ve made in the past could never depreciate the worth of the gift TODAY.
When everyone asks, "How did you get into fitness?"
So when people always ask "How did you get into fitness?".
I could fall back on the easy way out of saying that I grew up watching my parents’ passion for the sport and wanted to follow in their footsteps. But that would be a lie.
When I committed to my physical health – I was able to find an outlet to hold myself accountable for all of the other decisions I made on a daily basis – because everything comes back to health. When I committed to my physical health and faced the fear of failure – the fear of what others may say behind my back… the fear of being laughed at or looked down on… the fear that others also believed that I wasn’t worth fighting for… that I was silly for even trying… that the girl who used to never eat, the girl who didn’t think twice about what she put into her body, the girl who couldn’t care less about her future... she’d never amount to anything…
But this wasn’t about them or what they might think or say. This wasn’t even about liking what I saw in the mirror. This was about me. This was about RECOGNIZING who I saw in the mirror and being PROUD - because there IS a difference. This wasn’t about the end result. This was about the challenge. The challenge to stay committed. The challenge to fight through every rep, to go “one more”, to fight through every obstacle and to never give up – to fight my way through… Because I WAS and AM worth fighting for.
Challenging myself in the gym taught me that the adversity and the uphill battles are what make us strong – that all of the shame I carried from my past was NOT a waste and that just like the process of tearing muscle down – I was given the opportunity to come back stronger than before – to fight, to learn and to grow.
When I committed to my physical health, my emotional health improved. When my emotional health improved, my relational health improved and with that, the quality of my life improved. See, when I finally remembered that I had worth – that I was worth fighting for – that life was worth living – that it was never too late and that every day was a precious gift – I finally rediscovered reasons to wake up each morning.
With every small leap of faith and risk and fear that I faced, I slowly realized that the only person who controlled my future was me – not the me of the past – but the me of today. The me that wakes up every morning with the opportunity to embrace grace and second chances. The me that prays and fights and thanks the Lord for never giving up on me, by in return, never giving up on myself…
I want you to know that I’m not sharing my dirty laundry with you just for the sake of airing it out. I want you to know and I want you to truly believe that you are worth fighting for. I want you to know that if I can do it – if I can take my life that was so dark and so empty and so hopeless – from one world to another – I want you to know that you absolutely can too. So if you take anything from this, if anything sticks with you I hope that it’s this; your life and your legacy are what you make of it – but you have to fight for it .You have to want change and success and happiness for yourself more than anyone else wants it for you. This is your life and you only get one – so fight.
Thank you for reading my story -Janelle